Portugal’s Ferreira and Palmeiro start FIA European Baja Cup Challenge with victory at Baja TT Dehesa Extremadura

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The Portuguese crew of João Ferreira and Filipe Palmeiro won the last two stages to seal a 4min 26.1sec victory in the Badajoz-based Baja TT Dehesa Extremadura, round one of the five-event 2024 FIA European Baja Cup.

On the three-day Baja organised by Villafranca Motor Club (MCV Motorsport) that started in Badajoz in western Spain, crossed the border into Portugal and was fought out over narrow tracks across rural agricultural land in varied stage conditions, the X-Raid Mini JCW Rally Plus crew dominated the final day to move into an early season lead over runners-up Francisco Barreto and Carlos Duarte in their Toyota Hilux.

Repsol-backed Ferreira said: “It was a long final day but we won both of the stages. The first one was really demanding for us and the car. The terrain was tough. The last stage was tricky and narrow in parts but very enjoyable to drive. We won the race and we scored important points. The car that X-raid gave us was 200% reliable. It’s a very strong car.”

The third quickest time on the final stage enabled Rui Carneiro and his Norwegian former WRC co-driver Ola Floene to claim third place and victory in the Challenger category at the helm of their G Rally Team OT3.

Alexandre Pinto and Bernando Oliveira pushed Carneiro hard in their Can-Am Maverick X3 and finished fourth, a mere 9.3 seconds adrift, after early Challenger leaders João Diaz and João Miranda lost out on a potential podium finish with technical issues on the final stage that pushed them down to 23rd overall.

Carneiro said: “We come away from Extremadura with a win. It was very tough. After the first day, we lost four minutes in the last kilometres but we never gave up and we did everything to come to this point. We won the Challenger category and finished on the podium. We really needed this victory.”

Armindo Araújo is a multiple Portuguese rally champion and he teamed up with Pedro Ré to finish fifth and third in Challenger in an OT3 run by Santag Racing, the local racer finishing ahead of young Spaniard Pau Navarro and his co-driver Ian Rosa in their GRS Team USA Demon Car GT3.

Araújo added: “We finished fifth overall and third in Challenger. We are quite happy with this result but we think we can do better. We came to try and fight for the victory but we caught one driver this morning and were not able to pass him. Delays with dust brings a lot of problems. So, in the end, this result is good for us.”

Nuno Madeira and Nuno Morais came home in seventh and fourth of the Challenger runners in their Can-Am, although the Portuguese duo were not registered for the FIA European Baja Cup. The Polish pairing of Tomasz Bialkowski and Dariusz Baśkiewicz came out on top in the competitive SSV category in their Can-Am Maverick XRX Turbo RR. Bialkowski had won the T4 (SSV) category back in 2022.

The G Rally Team’s Adam Kus and Marcin Pacek were classified ninth and the female Mini JCW Rally Plus driver Maria Luis Gameiro teamed up with José Marques to round off the top 10 and finish third in the Ultimate section.

Outside the top 10, Fernando Alvarez and Xavier Panseri finished 12th and fifth of the registered Challenger crews in their OT3. Lithuania’s Benediktas Vanagas and his Estonian navigator Kuldar Sikk were 25th and third of the registered Ultimate category crews in their Toyota Gazoo Racing Baltics Hilux after failing to start the final stage following engine issues.

“We locked our engine in the last stage,” said Vanagas. “I think it happened because we had a hydro lock in the second stage. We put the car in Parc Fermé and received a stage penalty.”

Amongst the first stage retirements registered for the FIA European Baja Cup were Michal Maluszyński (Mini) and João Ramos (Toyota), while Jesus Fuster (X Herrator) and Paulo Rodrigues (Can-Am) were forced out on stage two.

The Spanish duo of Carlos Vento and Julián Garcia set a top time on the final stage but were disqualified by event stewards for repairing their Can-Am at a private location in a village outside the route of stage two and then rejoining the stage after 80 minutes.

Baja TT Dehesa Extremadura attracted 41 starters in the FIA category. The list consisted of 14 vehicles in the Ultimate section, 18 in Challenger, eight in SSV and one in the Stock category.

Friday morning’s 6.16km Prologue in Spain did not count towards the overall classification but the treacherously slippery tracks determined the starting order for the opening stage of 89.89km across the border in Portugal.

Ramos claimed the fastest time from Ferreira in the Ultimate category and Alexandre Pinto and Spaniard Federico Guillermo topped the times in the Challenger and SSV sections.

Challenger crews filled the top three positions on the incredibly tight and slippery opening stage and Dias forged into a 1min 03.1sec overnight advantage from Araújo with Pinto in third. Barreto was the quickest of the Ultimate drivers in fourth, while Bialkowski topped the SSV times from Fidel Castillo Ruiz.

The leading Ultimate crews hit back on the second stage of 169.52km on Saturday morning and Ferreira clocked the fastest time to beat Barreto by 2min 51.2sec to take the outright lead. Carneiro was the quickest of the Challenger drivers and slotted into third overall behind Dias. Pinto and Araújo rounded off the top six heading to the final test of 101.26km in the afternoon – a stage where Ferreira and Carneiro prevailed in Ultimate and Challenger.

The FIA European Baja Cup resumes with the Pordenone-based Italian Baja on July 5th-7th.  


2024 Baja TT Dehesa Extremadura - final result:

1. João Ferreira (PRT)/Filipe Palmeiro (PRT) Mini JCW Rally Plus5hr 13min 35.3sec* 
2. Francisco Barreto (PRT)/Carlos Duarte (PRT) Toyota Hilux5hr 18min 01.4sec*
3. Rui Carneiro (PRT)/Ola Floene (NOR) G Rally Team OT35hr 21min 28.6sec*
4. Alexandre Pinto (PRT)/Bernardo Oliveira (PRT) Can-Am Maverick X3 5hr 21min 37.9sec*
5. Armindo Araújo (PRT)/Pedro Ré (PRT) G Rally Team OT35hr 27min 22.1sec*
6. Pau Navarro (ESP)/Ian Rosa (ESP) Demon Car DT35hr 28min 12.5sec
7. Nuno Madeira (PRT)/Nuno Morais (PRT) Can-Am Maverick X3 5hr 28min 38.5sec
8. Tomasz Bialkowski (POL)/Dariusz Baśkiewicz (POL) Can-Am Maverick XRS Turbo RR 5hr 31min 33.4sec*
9. Adam Kus (POL)/Marcin Pasek (POL) G Rally Team OT35hr 32min 19.2sec*
10. Maria Gameiro (PRT)/José Marques (PRT) Mini JCW Rally Plus5hr 49min 10.4sec
11. Federico Guillaume (ESP)/David Aguado (ESP) Polaris RZR Pro XP Turbo5hr 52min 00.3sec
12. Fernando Alvarez (ESP)/Xavier Panseri (FRA) G Rally Team OT35hr 52min 52.2sec*
13. Dave Klaassen (NLD)/Tessa Rooth (NLD) Red Lined VK565hr 53min 57.7sec
14. Fidel Castillo Ruiz (ESP)/Fausto Moto (PRT) Can-Am Maverick XRS Turbo RR 5hr 57min 42.0sec*
15. Pim Klaassen (NLD)/Jeffrey Spoor (NLD) Red Lined VK506hr 04min 07.7sec
16. Nelson Beiró (PRT)/Ricardo Batista (PRT) Can-Am Maverick X3 6hr 10min 57.6sec
17. Miguel Prat Martinez (ESP)/Daniel Olivera (ESP) Yamaha YXZ 1000R6hr 31min 30.5sec*
18. Nuno Rogério (PRT)/Pedro Santos (PRT) Can-Am Maverick X36hr 39min 47.6sec
19. Enrique Reyes (ESP)/Jacqueline Ricci (ESP) VM Competicion Ordaz-R6hr 48min 51.0sec
20. William Buller (GBR)/Jorge Jordão (PRT) Yamaha YXZ 1000 R7hr 00min 50.5sec*
Select others 
23. João Dias (PRT)/João Miranda (PRT) G Rally Team OT38hr 35min 13.6sec* 
25. Benediktas Vanagas (LTU)/Kuldar Sikk (EST) Toyota Hilux9hr 13min 35.5sec*
27. Wlodzimierz Grajek (POL)/Michal Goleniewski (POL) Toyota Hilux13hr 43min 51.1sec
*denotes eligible for the FIA European Baja Cup